Is Howard Lee Schiff, PC calling you? Here's what you need to know.
When a debt collector calls, most consumers are so stressed and intimidated that they try to hide or agree to unsupportable payment arrangements that heighten their stress levels. This happens even if the debt has passed the statute of limitations or belongs to someone else entirely.
Although being worried is normal, it’s important to remember that as a consumer, you have rights while dealing with debt collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, was passed in 1977 to prevent third-party debt collectors from harassing money out of consumers. Under the FDCPA, they may not do any of the following in the process of collecting a debt:
- Yell or use obscene language to intimidate you
- Call you at work if such calls are not permitted by your employer
- Call you before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. in your time zone unless you have given them permission to do so.
- Tell you that you can be arrested or imprisoned for not paying a debt
- Disclose details of the debt with uninvolved third parties, such as coworkers, friends, and neighbors
- Continue to contact you after you’ve formally requested no further contact or after you’ve hired an attorney to represent you regarding the debt
Alleged Violations against Howard Lee Schiff, PC*
Howard Lee Schiff, PC is a law office headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut. It was founded in 1958 and incorporated in 1977. The practice is dedicated to collecting consumer debts throughout the six states in the New England region, with a call center and collection floor at its corporate headquarters. Other locations are in Auburn, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, Nashua, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and Brattleboro, Vermont.
Despite its years of being in the collections business, Howard Lee Schiff, PC has frequently been sued for alleged violations of the FDCPA. These cases are viewable on the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system website.
In 2009 a Connecticut consumer began receiving collection calls from Howard Lee Schiff, PC about a debt he had incurred with Windham Community Memorial Hospital. On or about November 5, 2009, the firm sent the consumer a collection notice seeking payment in the amount of $200.00. A few weeks later he disputed the validity of the debt via written correspondence mailed to Howard Lee Schiff, PC. He later alleged that the firm did not send him verification of the debt.
Months later, in January 2010, Howard Lee Schiff, PC filed suit on behalf of Windham Community Memorial Hospital, even though it had allegedly failed to obtain verification of the debt and send it to the consumer.
The complaint that he filed with the US District Court accused Howard Lee Schiff, PC of the following FDCPA violations:
- Employing false and deceptive means to collect a debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10))
- Continuing collection efforts even though they had allegedly failed to obtain verification of the debt and send it to the consumer once he disputed the validity of the debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b))
The matter was later settled.
The phone numbers for Howard Lee Schiff, PC is 1-860-528-9991 and 1-800-ATTY-HLS. If you see either number on your caller ID, a debt collection firm is trying to settle a debt with you. The FDCPA grants you the right to request verification of the debt, and if legal proceedings begin after you have disputed it, obtain the services of a consumer attorney. They can help you safeguard your rights and represent you if the matter goes to court. Should you win, you could receive statutory damages of $1000 per FDCPA violation, plus actual damages, court costs, and attorney fees. Collecting a debt is legal, but ignoring FDCPA guidelines is not.
*Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is 3:10-cv-00488-WWE, from United States District Court, District of Connecticut.
Disclaimer: The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be construed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Howard Lee Schiff, PC or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.